You now can drive your ATVs/UTVs on almost every Columbia County highway | Local Government

By | November 14, 2023
You now can drive your ATVs/UTVs on almost every Columbia County highway | Local Government

The Columbia County Board approved a resolution that will allow ATV/UTV traffic on county highways with a few segments remaining closed due to high levels of vehicle traffic.

A process that began in 2017 was completed on Wednesday morning in Portage during the County Board meeting where supervisors voted to approve an ordinance that would allow ATV/UTV traffic on all county highways with a select number of sections staying closed.

All supervisors voted in favor of the ordinance except Sup. Nancy Long. She stated she has concerns about safety with opening county highways.

Ellen Pulver of the Columbia County ATV/UTV enthusiast club has been attending meetings and doing research on the topic since last August when the Traffic Safety Commission reexamined this topic for the first time in years.

Sup. Jim Foley said this ordinance has been in the works in one way or another since 2017 and in that five years the county has done a lot of work on this topic.

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She said it could cost the county $20,000 more to leave select segments of county highways closed to ATV/UTV traffic than it would if the board opened up all county highways to the use.

That figure comes from information from the highway department stating it would cost around $10,000 to post signage for open segments and a total of $30,000 to post signs for all openings and closings of county highways to ATV/UTV traffic.

Columbia County Highway Commissioner Chris Hardy said the reason portions of county highway are closed to ATV/UTV traffic in the proposed ordinance is because those roads experience high rates of vehicle traffic.

Hardy explained the highway department evaluated traffic data of all county highways in the last several months. The department focused on average daily traffic, or ADT, data. If the ADT was over 1,000 the road way was considered to have too much vehicle traffic to open to ATV traffic.

“An ADT of 1,000 means about a vehicle every minute,” Hardy said at a highway committee meeting earlier this year. “With that much traffic, it would be a safety concern to open those roads to more traffic such as ATVs. The goal is to keep the roads safe for everyone and adding ATV traffic to these segments would be unsafe.”

At a highway committee meeting in Wyocena in February there was a discussion about connecting routes. Supporters said it could be difficult to get from one place to another if the proposed segments will be closed. Hardy said there are other ways to get from place to place without risking the safety of motorists.

The ordinance passed Wednesday morning opens all county highways to ATV/UTV traffic, except the following segments:

  • County Highway (CTH) C from State Highway (STH) 16 at Rio south to STH 60, and from STH 60 south to the Dane County line
  • CTH CS from CTH V in Dekorra east to State Trunk Highway 22 in Lowville; excepting the municipal portion within the Poynette village limit
  • CTH CX from Marquette County line south to the intersection with Northside Drive in the City of Portage
  • CTH I from Dane County line north to village of Arlington limit
  • CTH J from State Trunk Highway 113 in Lodi east to CTH V in Lodi; then from CTH V in Lodi north to Kent Road in Dekorra
  • CTH P from U.S. Highway 51 east to the Village of Pardeeville limit
  • CTH P from State Trunk Highway 44 east to the Village of Cambria limit
  • CTH P from Village of Cambria east limit then east to State Trunk Highway 73 in Randolph
  • CTH Q from State Trunk Highway 60 in Arlington north to Village of Poynette limit
  • CTH V from Ryan Road in Lodi east to Smith Rd in Lodi; then from Meadowlark Road in Dekorra north to CTH B in Dekorra
  • CTH EF from State Road 33 to CTH E
  • CTH F from State Road 33 to Marquette County Line
  • CTH CM from CTH CX to CTH F

There are a number of other rules and regulations outlined in the ordinance. These include that all ATV/UTV operators must follow federal, state and local ordinances. All riders under the age of 18 must wear a helmet when operating or riding an ATV/UTV.

Operators must also have a Wisconsin DNR registration number clearly visible at all times. ATV/UTVs are not allowed to go faster than 35 mph and when within 100 feet of pedestrian or 150 feet from house cannot exceed 10 mph.

ATV/UTVs must have working headlights, taillights and brake lights with head and taillights turned on at all times. They also can only be operated on the extreme right side of the paved surface of the road.

The ordinance also states ATV/UTV shall not operate on county highways between the hours of 10 p.m. and 5 a.m.

Sup. Liz Miller asked if the county ordinance could be stricter than the current Wisconsin ATV traffic law. Corporate Council Joe Ruf explained the ordinance cannot be made stricter than the state statute.

This was the topic of discussion at the numerous Traffic Safety Commission and Highway Department meetings.

Ruf said that county had to follow the state law otherwise there could be the potential of 72 different ordinances for ATV/UTV traffic.

Sups. Jon Plumer, Chris Polzer and Harlan Baumgartner all spoke in favor of the ordinance.

“Five years has gone into this ordinance and I’m voicing my approval for this,” Plumer said. “The ATV/UTV clubs are very passionate about this topic. I think this ordinance is a good start.”

He added the highway committee will continue to monitor ATV/UTV traffic and make adjustments over time.

The ordinance will need to be published now that it has been approved. After the publication of the ordinance, the highway department will begin installing signs showing ATV/UTV riders when the county highway is open or closed to traffic.